The poster advertises Pele’s debut for the New York Cosmos, an exhibition match against Dallas Tornado, who included Kyle Rote Jnr, recognized as the best American player at the time (bet Kyle never thought he’d ever see his name on a poster alongside Pele’s!).
The Cosmos’ home stadium at time, Downing Stadium on Randall’s Island, could never in a million years have been confused with a cathedral of soccer. Situated between Queen’s and Manhattan, the playing area had so little grass that it had to be sprayed green to make it look respectable for the nationally televised game.
Pelé scored the equalizer in a 2-2 draw – career goal #1,219 from 1,255 games – as American soccer entered a new era.
When as a 12 year-old boy, I first heard Pele was to come out of retirement to play in America my first thought was, “Really? What have they done to deserve that?”
The answer of course was, “They had done nothing to deserve it.” They just had the money and it was enough to persuade the great man, and a few other notables; his last World Cup winning captain Carlos Alberto and the Kaiser himself, Franz Beckenbauer to follow suit.
With Pele’s arrival in NewYork the whole world noticed.
“I had everything,” Beckenbauer said. “I was the captain of Bayern Munich and of the German national team. I had everything. Then the offer of the Cosmos came and I said, ‘I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know.
“Then I said, ‘It was a good chance.’ Pelé was my idol since ‘58 when I was 13-years-old watching the World Cup in Sweden. He was 17 and was fantastic since then.
“I adore Pelé from 1958 until today. I said to myself, ‘It was a good chance to play with the best player of all time.’ The Cosmos [owners] they promised they will build higher, even more world class players.”